Experiential learning in an Indigenous context: Praxis of place, experience and criticality *
Kevin O’Connor (McGill University, Canada) [BIO]
This research involves the current educational and social challenges facing First Nation and Inuit students of northern Canada through examination of three experiential and place-based educational programs presently being applied in both the public school systems of the Yukon (Experiential Programs in Whitehorse, YT) and Nunavut (Inuuqatigiit- "the curriculum from the Inuit perspective" used in Rankin Inlet, NU) territories, and in a Cree Nation reserve school in northern Alberta (Community-Based Experiential Education Program in Cold Lake, AB).
These programs successfully utilize experiential and placed-based initiatives to address the lack of success and disengagement amongst Indigenous students by promoting a holistic form of education that values the importance of place and its cultural knowledge. Through the use of environmental science related activities and an integration of traditional ecological knowledge, students develop an enlightened recognition of the proper relationship of self, community and natural world.
With the increase in land claim agreements, renegotiation of treaty rights and local control of resource development, many Indigenous communities are engaging in the use of new media and information technologies in the process of self-determination. This direct control and involvement leads to issues of preservation and sustainable development of their resources. Education becomes a major factor in this process as many Indigenous communities support the inclusion of these technologies in the students learning;
- to encourage students to be aware of and feel responsible for the lands their ancestors have occupied and
- to better prepare and encourage the students for employment opportunities that exists within Indigenous territories and beyond.
I hope to determine:
- How is Indigenous knowledge is understood and delivered in curriculum and pedagogy;
- How current educational systems can redefine their practices to address Indigenous needs as well as improve student engagement and success;
- How E-learning and the use of ICT’s and related networking can embrace community and cultural values to create a more purposeful classroom praxis that engages learners in both local and global environments.
* Experiential learning in an Indigenous context: Praxis of place, experience and criticality is the title of my current doctoral research being undertaken in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education (DISE) at McGill University and funded by the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL)-2006 Aboriginal Learning Research Project.